BFS Summer Research Funding Dinner

Date: Tuesday, November 19, 2013, 5:00pm - 6:30pm
Location: Fireside Lounge, CURF (220 S. 40th St., second floor)

This dinner is a celebration of the independent research done by Benjamin Franklin Scholars this past summer, and also an opportunity to learn more about the funding available to Benjamin Franklin Scholars for the coming summer. Several of your fellow BFS will present the research they received funding to do over the summer. We will also discuss how to apply for BFS-only summer research funding, as well as other research opportunities such as PURM, the College Alumni Society Research Grant, and more. Dinner will be provided.

Please RSVP if you plan to come so that we can be sure to order enough food!


KC Boas, “The Didacticism of Violence through Time”

A simplistic evaluation of the violent depictions of Netherlandish proverbs reveals that violence is harmful. A deeper analysis of violence demonstrates that it can actually prove helpful in defining morality, through antithesis, as is promoted by Renaissance art. My research, however, is not only focused on the role of violence as a tool to define morality. In addition, it seeks to determine how the didactic purpose of violence changes over time and what significance this has on the culture of Amsterdam. The modern component of my research is critical to evaluating this evolution of violence’s didacticism: my research will question the way the Dutch have chosen to present violent themes of antiquity in a modern setting that promotes world peace.

Josh Tycko, "Penn iGEM: development of site-specific DNA methylases"

As part of Penn's team for the International Genetically Engineered Machines competition (iGEM), I developed a 3 component toolbox to accelerate the development of a DNA sequence-specific methylase enzyme for use in synthetic biology and epigenetics research. This engineered enzyme chemically modifies the DNA by adding methyl groups, and holds promise as a new method for silencing gene expression. Researchers are interested in using this as a tool to study cancer, which is often associated with an absence of methylation on specific genetic sequences. Our toolbox included: these engineered enzymes, our MaGellin assay for measuring their activity and specificity, and our MaGellin software tool for simulating experiments and automating analysis. Our assay offered significant time and cost savings over traditional methods. Outside the molecular biology lab, I also published an article on the future implications of our field and our work, "The Potential of Epigenetic Therapies and the Need for the Elucidation of Risks". For more information:

Brendan Van Gorder, “Sex, Trash, Development”

This research looks at two different models of developing the informal economic sector: using techniques and resources from the state or using resources held in community networks. In the first stage of my research I conducted a 60+ member survey for a sex workers' labor union in Kolkata, India.  This union has effectively developed the socio-economic conditions of those informally employed in the sex trade in West Bengal.  The second stage of my research looks at interviews I set up personally with contacts in a "trash-picker" community in Nicaragua.  This community recently had their neighborhood rebuilt by a Nicaraguan-Spanish collaborative development project. 

Matthew Weaver, “Complexity, Expressibility and Finite Model Theory”

When packing for move-in before first semester freshman year, one must attempt to bring a sufficient amount from home to make college life livable while not exceeding the extreme spatial limitations of his dorm room. As many of you know, this problem can be quite challenging, and happens to be so for the same reason that encrypted information on a computer is difficult to decrypt. Both problems are in the computational complexity class NP, a set of problems that are difficult to decide but given any solution can be easily verified. The distinction between how difficult it is to decide versus verify these problems, called the P = NP problem, has yet to be proven. This summer I begin research in finite model theory, a branch of mathematical logic devoted to the study of how difficult it is to say concepts in the language of mathematics. Interestingly, how difficult it is to express something mathematically can be equated to how complex it is to calculate the same thing computationally, making finite model theory a way to formally conclude that P does not equal NP.

Danny DiIulio, “Yi Writing in Southwest China”

I spent the first half of my summer working with a sixteenth-century stone inscription from Guizhou Province. My goals were to determine which modern Yi dialect the script most closely resembled and to create both a vocabulary list of Nasu words used in the inscription and a cross-dialect comparative chart of common words in the four different modern Yi dialects using Mandarin-Yi dictionaries. I completed these goals successfully. During the second half of the summer, I worked with the Yi manuscripts housed at the Princeton Theological Seminary. My goals here were to photograph the pieces (which have never been published), to determine which Yi script was used to write them, and to try to figure out how old they were and where they came from. I was able to create digital images of all the manuscripts and to figure out that they were written in a script associated in recent times with the Nosu dialect, but I have not yet been able to determine where they came from or how old they are; I am currently working on having them translated by experts in China.